News: Looking Back and Packing Up Eric Simonson - Basecamp Mon, May 28, 2001 6:00AM
Last night all the yaks and Sherpas made it back down to Base Camp. This morning we are finishing up our packing. We have three Chinese trucks coming in a few hours (we hope), along with six jeeps. Our goal is to go to Tingri tonight, and hopefully cross the border tomorrow and go to Kodari. If not, we'll be in Zhangmu, on the Chinese side. Our plans are complicated by the fact that there is now a three day strike in Nepal which has shut down all road transport. We won't be able to get to Kathmandu until the 30th due to this. Despite the hassles of moving this much gear and this many people (34), we are all happy to be heading to the warm world of thick air.
Last night we shared Scotch wiskey, Tibetan beer, and Chinese fireworks with some of our neighbors camped around us. One of the conversations we had was with the Colombian expedition, and we wanted to set the record straight as to what had happened at 28,000 feet on the Northeast Ridge on the day of the big rescue. It turned out there were two Spanish speaking climbing teams that morning on the ridge, and the two Colombians were concerned that they had been confused with two climbers from a Spanish team. Here is what happened: both teams walked past the sick Russians as our team attended to them at the mushroom rock. The Colombian climbers offered water and food at the site of Russell Brice's two bivouaced climbers, before continuing on to the top. The two climbers from the Spanish team walked past the scene at the third step and kept going without stopping. The Spanish team members also passed the rescue party on their descent without helping (one of them actually tried to pass Dave Hahn on near vertical rock, as he lowered Russell's client down the Second Step... Dave had to order him to wait!). The Colombian climbers arrived back at Camp 6 after the rescue team.
Obviously, the decision to continue on to the summit while a rescue is going on is a personal one. There are a lot of factors, including high expectations from sponsors and media, the realization by a climber that a summit day might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the philosophy that a person at 8700 meters is ultimately only responsible for themselves. I understand all this. On the other hand, making the summit would be tainted for me if I achieved this at the cost of someones life. These are tough calls. I am sure that every person on the ridge that day (including the sick people) thought in their own minds, that they were doing the correct thing. Nobody goes up high and plans on getting messed up. It is easy to second guess when we are back down. Let's just say that at high altitude, there is little justice. If you can't handle the uncertainty, you shouldn't be there.
I am sending one more dispatch in a few hours with a final wrap-up!